About Wickersham’s Conscience

James Wickersham, 1916

James Wickersham (1857-1939) was a District Court Judge in the Territory of Alaska and three-time non-voting representative from the Territory to Congress. He was a statesman, an author, a mountain climber, an historian and a scholar, at home on the bench, behind a dog sled team or in the halls of Congress. He was also the first jurist to recognize the rights of Alaska’s Native peoples. For more information on one of Alaska’s most important historical figures, see the State of Alaska website or read Evangeline Atwood’s Frontier Politics.

He was also honest and incorruptible, in contrast to the judges that preceded him and far too many politicians in Alaska today. Since 2008, this blog has tried to carry Judge Wickersham’s conscience and inquiring spirit into the 21st Century.

The author of most of the blog posts here at  Wickersham’s Conscience is an unsuccessfully (finally!) retired Alaska attorney, nature photographer, would-be geologist and fly fisherman. After living in Alaska for more than 60 years, he relocated to Idaho in 2015. Leaving Alaska hasn’t stopped him from writing about Alaska. Even though he is a fairly recent arrival in Idaho, that hasn’t stopped him from writing about Idaho.

If you really want to contact Wickersham’s Conscience, and a comment to a blog post won’t do, you can email WC at wickershamsconscience@gmail.com. WC gets a lot of email, most of it spam, so please don’t be offended if WC doesn’t get back to you right away. WC is much better at moderating comments than responding to emails. Or use this contact form:

9 thoughts on “About Wickersham’s Conscience

  1. I read your blog post – https://wickershamsconscience.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/fallacies-the-taxi-cab-fallacy/ – I can’t comment on that post since the comments are closed, but I can confirm that is really something Schopenhauer said, albeit in somewhat garbled form.

    What Schopenhauer actually said was: “The causal law therefore is not so accommodating as to let itself be used like a hired cab, which we dismiss when we have reached our destination” (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Hildebrand translation (1903), p. 42-43 – you can verify this quote for yourself here – https://archive.org/stream/onthefourfoldroo00schouoft#page/42/mode/2up )

    Schopenhauer’s said this in criticising the cosmological argument for the existence of God. Advocates of that argument claim that all things including the universe must have a cause, and that therefore the cause of the universe is God. Schopenhauer objects that if the universe must have an external cause, God must have an external cause too. Advocates of the argument say that the principle that everything must have an external cause applies to the universe, but not to God. Schopenhauer is accussing them of treating this principle like a hired cab (i.e. a horse-drawn cab for hire, not a modern day taxi) – they ride it until they reach their desired destination (God’s existence), and then hop off it and refuse to ride it any further. He is saying that their decision to apply this principle to the universe yet exclude its application to God is arbitrary and motivated by a desire to reach a particular conclusion (God’s existence).

    Schopenhauer’s “causal law” seems to have been transformed into “science”, but Schopenhauer is referring to the principle that everything must have a cause, which is more of a philosophical principle than a scientific one. He is certainly not making some comment about the role of the natural sciences in general.

    So, really, this is just a case of people confusing a paraphrase with a direct quote, or simply garbling the quote in transmission, anachronistically modernising the language somewhat (replacing horse-drawn cabs for hire with modern day taxis), and possibly being unaware of the context in which he made the original statement.

    Your citation of a Christian apologist using this argument – http://web.archive.org/web/20110501010455/http://streetapologetics.com/2011/04/what-is-the-taxi-cab-fallacy/ – (it’s gone but the Internet Archive has saved it) – is amusing, given that Schopenhauer was an atheist, and he made this statement to counter one of the more popular arguments for God’s existence. Did that Christian apologist realise they were using a (garbled) atheist argument?

    Liked by 1 person

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